Mine didn’t go to the moon or cure cancer, but he has always been my hero and the standard I hold every man to.
He served 20-plus years in the Air Force and though I hated moving as a kid, I thought my dad was awesome. Whenever I was with my dad on base, I thought everyone should salute him. I’m pretty sure I told people to salute my dad.
Eventually I figured out how the whole rank and salute thing works, but not before I decided I would wear his flight suit and be my dad for Halloween one year.
When we were all young, Mom went back to nursing for awhile. It was my braided-hair phase, but Mom would do it. Dad filled in and tried his best to braid my hair. Even if it didn’t turn out quite right, I wore those braids proudly because my dad did it for me.
Dad worked hard, then came home and worked around the house and helped with homework. Quite honestly, now that I’m an adult, just thinking about how much he did exhausts me. I can’t count the nights he stayed up ridiculously late helping me with math homework or figuring out formulas in Excel documents for school projects.
He also managed to teach me the art of contingency planning. Maybe it was his military background, but Dad always told me to have back-up plans, though I can’t remember a time he ever said I couldn’t do something.
I told him one day I wanted to run for president. I started bringing home books about the Constitution and reading them. I was about 10. Dad told me that was a great dream, but I should also consider running for the House of Representatives or Senate first.
When I wrecked my car on my birthday while I was moving into my dorm for my first year of college, his first question was if I was OK and never yelled. He just recommended I not do that again.
The day I came home from college and announced that I had quit the student paper and was going to study abroad in New Zealand, my parents just stared at me. But Dad never said no. He signed all the paperwork, helped me pick a program, pack, gave me an international phone card and took me to the airport.
Somehow, Dad survived a house of girls. Even the dogs were girls, he jokes sometimes. He showed my sisters and I what a good man looks like.
Dad knows that I can take care of myself, but knowing he always has my back makes life a little less scary.
When he retired from the military, he teared up talking about his own parents. I’d never seen my dad cry and I started bawling.
If there’s ever a time I’m giving a similar speech, I know I’ll cry talking about my parents. I may never go to the moon or cure cancer, either, but if I come even close to being the person my dad is, it will be a life well-lived.